HUDSON — The blueberries are slow to ripen this year because of the cold fronts that blew in this winter. But they're coming. On each green and purple cluster, there is usually at least one big, fat, juicy blueberry. By the end of this week or next, all the bushes at Brenda's Berry Barn should be sweet and ripe.
Brenda Short and her husband, Jerry, started this farm in Hudson four years ago as a retirement plan. They're both now in their late 50s. Jerry still works in maintenance for the county. They've got a big red barn next to their fields, where they can stand in the shade and sell preserves, produce, crafts and buckets for people to pick their own berries.
On any given day, it's a multi-generational affair: Brenda's 87-year-old mother, Margaret Fry, sometimes works the register. She is turning 88 next month and has survived five bypasses and two battles with cancer. She lost her husband, Carl, three years ago. Carl was the nature lover who taught his children and grandchildren the names of trees and plants. A few days before he died, he was out in the blueberry fields, picking weeds.
"I had never tasted a blueberry before we started this," Margaret said Friday in the barn. "Isn't that something?"
And one of Brenda's 14 children is bound to be there, usually with a child of their own in tow. Brenda and Jerry had three children and then adopted 11 more. Brenda, along with her mother, has a deep belief in God. She isn't looking to adopt more children, but if one came to her, she wouldn't say no.
"If God sent me one," Brenda said, her voice trailing off. All of her children are grown and out of the house now, but it doesn't seem lonely, because they visit often.
Margaret's great-grandchildren call her Grandma Great and she grins hearing them say it.
"I have 26 grandchildren and 20-something great-grandchildren," she said. "Can you believe that? And I love every one of them."
The parking lot around the barn is soft, deep sand that pillows around tires, making the first turn into this farm a different world for most of the suburban moms and kids who come here to pick blueberries.
"It's dirty here!" one little boy whined as he got out of the car, walking gingerly on the sand. His sister was behind him, pointing out a chunk of dirt.
"I think that's poo behind you!" she said.
"Ewwww," the boy said. "Poo!"
But as they walked, bucket in hand, into the field, their misgivings melted. For most of the children, the bushes are taller than them, and they can escape into their imaginations.
"Blueberry heaven!" one girl kept shouting. "I've found blueberry heaven!"
"Here is a yummy big one!" another girl yelled. "Look how big it is!"
"Mom?" one girl said.
"I've been eating a lot of blueberries," she said.
Every few minutes, an adult voice will shout children's names and the kids will yell back, sticking their hands up so they can be found. But mostly, though, it's pretty quiet, people moving slowly from bush to bush, picking the berries, focused and feeling the breeze.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at
email@example.com or (813) 909-4609.